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Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson next Saturday, April 30th on ESPN

Image: Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson next Saturday, April 30th on ESPN

By Jack Tiernan: Oscar Valdez and Shakur Stevenson meet next Saturday, April 30th in an important super featherweight unification bout in the headliner at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ESPN and ESPN+ will be showing the Valdez vs. Stevenson event beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET.

The unbeaten WBO 130-lb champion Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) and WBC champion Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) are easily the two best fighters in the division.

This fight will show who is the #1 at super featherweight and will lead to the winner going after the two remaining titles to become the undisputed champion.

Although Stevenson has great opportunities for big money fights at lightweight, he wants to stay at 130 long enough to become the undisputed champion.

Valdez says his experience will be key

“It was a bit sad because we fought before and I always wished him the best,” said Oscar Valdez to Top Rank Boxing when asked if he watched Miguel Berchelt’s last fight against Jeremiah Nakathilia.

“Seeing him that way on that night, it was heartbreaking,” said Valdez. “It made me feel bad for several reasons.

“The difficulty of this sport. It’s not like basketball or baseball. If you lose in baseball, you can always recover for the next season. These are punches that you’re receiving with shots to the head. It’s a dangerous sport.

“It does because it’s still boxing, it’s still taking shots to the face,” Valdez said when asked if the Berchelt fight is relevant to his upcoming match against Stevenson this Saturday.

If Valdez is able to land his powerful left hook flush to the head of Stevenson, he’s got a real chance of winning this fight.

Shakur has only faced one puncher during his five-year professional career in Jeremia Nakathila last June, and he made it boring for the fans by backing up all night with his pull-back style to keep from getting hit.

It’s very likely that Stevenson will fight the same way against Valdez that he did against Nakathilia because he does not like to get hit hard, and he’ll go out of his way to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Stevenson will turn off a lot of boxing fans if he runs from Valdez like he did against Nakathilia because he’s got to learn to stay in the pocket because people don’t want to pay to see boxers that use the pull-back style that he employs, especially when they’re paying to see fights on ESPN+.

“Shakur is a way more defensive fighter, but anything can happen inside the ring. My experience, I have more fights than him,” Valdez said when asked what his advantage is over Shakur.

“I’ve been through a lot of fights, a lot of wars. You find a way to get him there and force him to get there to start questioning himself. Does he really want it?

“I fought with an injured hand, broken rib, and I’ve been sent to the canvas,” said Valdez. “There have been times where I was exhausted and I thought I was going to collapse because I was so exhausted in the ring.

“Losing is not an option. That’s the only thing in my mind that I have to keep going and going forward. It just shows that I’ve definitely got the heart for this,” said Valdez.

Stevenson has the size advantage

“Stylistically, strategically, Oscar Valdez understands there’s no comparing Stevenson and Berchelt,” said Mark Kriegel. “He understands that he needs to apply the smartest kind of pressure.

“I grant you that it’s difficult to imagine Shakur Stevenson in that place because we’ve never it before. One thing to bear in mind. Stevenson is not only bigger than Valdez, I think he’s bigger than Berchelt.”

“You know what? I’m not going to write off Oscar Valdez,” said Tim Bradley. “I understand that Stevenson has all the tools in the world to beat Oscar Valdez, but the last time I wrote off Oscar Valdez, what did he do? He delivered a sensational knockout [of Miguel Berchelt].

“Guess what? There is opportunities and there will be opportunities for him to land hard shots on Shakur Stevenson. Shakur Stevenson, if you go back and watch the Nakathilia fight. He was facing a guy with punching power, he backed up most of the night,” said Bradley.

“That is what Valdez is going to have to do. He’s going to have to press forward, he’s going to have to let those hands go, and he’s going to have to put fear in the young man [Stevenson], use his experience and take him deep and try and drown him,” said Bradley.

Putting pressure will be difficult for Valdez because of Stevenson’s long jab, and his ability to quickly counter with his superior hand speed. But as long as Valdez is willing to take some of Shakur’s weaker shots to get to his chin, he could enjoy success.

With the way Shakur backs up constantly, it’s going to be hard for Valdez to hit him with a big enough shot to hurt him. Stevenson will speedily back up to keep Valdez from hitting him with power on his shots, and that’s going to be a problem that he’ll need to overcome.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has been patient with Shakur thus far for having a less than eye-pleasing style, but he’s got to be concerned with how his style is similar to Guillermo Rigondeaux’s.

Arum wasn’t happy with the way Rigondeaux’s fights were less than crowd-pleasing, but at least he has punching power and was scoring knockouts. Shakur can’t punch, and when he does stop opponents, it comes by an accumulation of blows.

“We’ve seen the evolution of Oscar Valdez’s style,” said Bernard Osuna. “After those three wars with Genesis Servania, Miguel Marriaga, and that broken jaw against Scott Quigg, he went to Eddy Reynoso and said, ‘Transform me’ into the fighter he is today. Will that be enough for Shakur Stevenson? We’ll all see on April 30th,” said Osuna.

“Two fighters that are perfect at what they do. Oscar Valdez, a pressure counter puncher, and you’ve got Shakur Stevenson, who is practically unhittable.”

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